The Whitechapel Fountain is the last remaining trace of the ‘white chapel’ that gave a name to this East London district. This drinking fountain was established in 1860 to provide free and clean drinking water to workers in a time when cholera was widespread and affordable alternatives limited. The park adjoining the fountain, known as St Mary’s Park until 1998, was renamed Altab Ali Park in memory of a Bangladeshi leather worker murdered in a racist attack in 1978 – an event which launched Bengali community activism in the area.
Young people have been involved throughout the restoration of the fountain – exploring its layered history, learning hands-on about stonemasonry skills and celebrating its launch.
“Thank you Ali, we know racism affected you a lot and you died but left peace for our community.”
Zain, age 15, from London Enterprise Academy
“I feel more informed and connected to my roots, more than I was before, because I was born and raised in Whitechapel, but I hadn’t really known about anything before this, so now I know!”
Savira Hussain, aged 17
“I saw the kids get silent as you began talking about the protests after the murder of Altab Ali. You could see how much they cared and how proud they were of their community. A high proportion of our students are Bangladeshi and I want them to feel proud of being Bangladeshi and proud of being Londoners.”
Jess Sharpe, Teacher, Swanlea School
The Fountain Couplet
By Amira Rehman, aged 8
The Whitechapel fountain was built but broke long ago.
It got rebuilt and now water flows.
The Whitechapel fountain is safe to drink water
And in the future it can be taller.
The Whitechapel fountain is as big as a mountain
And everyone is questioning if it’s the most famous fountain.
I met the people who built the fountain,
And every day we are counting,
The day where we see the reveal.
I can’t wait to see how I feel!
The Whitechapel Fountain
By Zuhayr Saleh Ibrahim, aged 8
The Whitechapel fountain is a legendary place.
The founder of it doesn’t have a face.
The Whitechapel fountain is important to us,
Visit the fountain by walking or bus.
The Whitechapel fountain is very cool.
We learnt about it at Buttercup Primary School.
The Whitechapel fountain is free for everyone to drink,
Clean and pristine like drinking from a sink.